“We’re Still Learning.” A Devotion on Mark 10:42-45

“So Jesus called the disciples and said to them, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”—Mark 10:42-45

The disciples had expected great things from Jesus when he ushered in God’s glorious new reign on earth. But their lofty expectations were dashed when he ended up hanging dead on a Roman cross.

It was only after the resurrection that they begin to understand what he had been trying to tell them and teach them all along. They remembered the things he said, such as “those who want to save their life will lose it, but those who lose their life for my sake will save it.”

And they remembered the things he did: how he washed their feet, how he healed the sick, how he cleansed the lepers, how he embraced the outcasts, how he fed the hungry.

Above all he taught them a completely new understanding of authority, and a new kind of power, the authority of a servant and a power made perfect in weakness.

They were not to lead as the Gentile rulers did, as tyrants and bullies who lorded their power over their subjects. No, they were to exercise their authority through servant leadership, with authority that is humble and aims to serve others. Jesus was teaching them that you can’t love down.

He was teaching them, and the generations that would follow, how to be the church. We’re still learning.

Prayer: Holy One, teach us to serve as Jesus served, to love as Jesus loved.

(This is my United Church of Christ Daily Devotion for May 5 , 2018. To see the original go here. To subscribe to the UCC Daily Devotional and receive it every day by e-mail go here.  Painting of Jesus teaching by Rembrandt.)

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“We Shall Walk Through the Valley in Peace” A Devotion on Psalm 23:4

Valley“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” —Psalm 23:4 KJV

The “shadow of death” is a colloquial saying in Hebrew meaning “mortal peril.” For many people in our world who are in mortal peril “the shadow of death” is literal. We might think of the people of Syria, or refugees in leaky boats, or young men in gangs. Or we might think of people we know who are dying. They live in “the shadow of death.” Continue reading

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“All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need.”—Acts 2:44-45

My son and daughter were born 20 months apart and so played together as children. Before I was a parent I imagined that the solution to sibling competition over toys was to give them each the same one. So, for example, if you gave one of them a colorful ball, you would also give the other one an identical ball. As reasonable as this sounds it didn’t work. Apparently there is something highly acquisitive hardwired into the human condition. It turns out that both children wanted both balls. I’m tempted to reference a certain Christian doctrine here, but I’ll hold back. Continue reading

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“Living Water and Leaky Containers” A Devotion on Jeremiah 2:13

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When you live in the desert you know the difference between green and brown, between wet and dry. In the parched lands from which we get our Bible water was not only a precious resource, but also an important metaphor for life itself. Continue reading

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I started my ministry 43 years ago in two small congregations in two adjacent tiny towns in Maine about 9 miles apart. When I lived in Maine just about the nicest compliment you could give someone was to say they were “down to earth.” It meant that they weren’t puffed up about their own importance. They were reliable, sensible, responsible, unpretentious and humble. Continue reading

Gabriel J. Fackre (1926-2018) A Remembrance

I head down to Cape Cod this weekend to mourn the death and celebrate the life of my friend Gabe Fackre. Gabe was very important to my life. I knew him first as my seminary teacher, then my mentor, later a faithful colleague and a life-long friend. Most of all he encouraged me again and again in my ministry. Continue reading